Trying to find the words to summarize a pretty wild day at Eagleman 70.3. I had been training pretty hard in all phases of the game, putting a lot of time in at the pool, on the bike, and on the run. Looking at past results and present training, I knew I had a decent chance at doing pretty well in the age group. At the same time, traveling to a race of this caliber always brings unexpected challenges. Getting a race that involves so many variable just right is pretty elusive. One part might go well and the other parts may suffer. Hitting everything exactly as planned is pretty difficult. One of the nice things about the 70.3 distance is that it is an unfolding process that allows for some analysis, evaluation and trajectory change as things progress. Get lost in any one moment and all subsequent moments can be lost.
After arriving down to the race location, first surprise of the day was that no wetsuits would be allowed for anyone. I’ve never done a race that did not allow wetsuits. In another life, that would have caused much concern. Not now however, as I have been training with the West Side Swim Club for the last 1 1/2 years, and can quite honestly say it has changed the way I look at the race. We do enough crazy stuff in the water (with about +14,000 yards per week for me) that swimming 1.2 miles without a wet suit doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Fortunately I had purchased a brand new speed suit from MRC club sponsor XTERRA wetsuits. Unfortunately it was sitting in my bedroom in Massachusetts. There was a lot of that going around because no one could remember when this had ever happened.
Swim was pretty good in terms of conditions. Wide start and straight shot with a little chop. Felt great during the swim even though we were going against the current. At the first turn I started to get pushed sideways inside the buoys and had to readjust course, costing me some time. Since we are swimming in a little harbor, we really don’t get the benefit of the return current. But I felt strong throughout the whole thing, even though my time wasn’t great. With some of the race in speedsuits and some not, hard to really judge where I was. Little disappointed but nothing to do about it now. Out of the water in 360th place, and 39th in my age group.
As soon as I hit the bike I started to feel the heat, which was projected to climb into the 90s. Plan for the day was to drink like crazy on the bike. My run/bike coach Cort Cramer and I had a game plan for my heart rate, which immediately went out the window in the heat. There was no way I could keep my heart rate as low as it had been in training in that heat without sacrificing some serious speed. So the next 56 miles became an exercise in tightrope walking, going between where I wanted (needed) my MPH, my pedal cadence, and heart rate to be. The bike is extremely flat, which I do not like much. I would much rather have some climbs, descents, and technical turns. This is a turn and burn course. Albeit a beautiful track into a wildlife preserve, I found it pretty tedious and couldn’t wait to be done. This was underlined by a pain in my left hamstring at the insertion point. Made it tough to stay for long periods of time in the TT position, where you wanted to be with the wind kicking up. Also ended up drinking over 144 ounces of fluid on the bike in 2:28. Toward the end of the bike was passed by Pat Dwyer of BTT, which helped me kick things up a little bit more and finish hard on the bike. Off the bike in 22nd place in my age group.
I knew a lot of the day would come down to the run, which would be a war of attrition. It is not always about who goes the fastest; it is sometimes about who slows down the least. That would be today. Off the bike my hamstring was killing me for the first 1/4 mile, but I figured it would loosen up and it did. Originally I wanted to run in the 6:30s. I knew that was out the window right away. My mind settled on the thought this was just a training run and I had tick the miles off. No need to run fast, just had to keep running. People were already hurting and going slow. I had just got done reading “Born to Run”, and a primary message in that book is run for fun. Not that you can’t run hard, but run happy. So, even though the heat was miserable and I was hurting at mile 1, I made a point of cheering everyone on that I passed. I quickly became annoying. But, every time I did it, I felt better. Giving words of encouragement made me thing less of how much I hurt, how hot I was, and how much I wanted to walk. I was able to keep pretty consistent in my splits and steadily pass people until the turn around when I lost the slight breeze and it became like an oven. I mustered on, kept cheering for people, and just focused on getting done and being happy (which was tough). The last few miles were really hard to maintain, and my pace slipped a bit. But overall I ran pretty even splits, and finished the run in 1:31. This put me in 7th place in my AG and 71st overall. After crossing to the finish line, I was helped to the medical tent where I promptly laid down (collapsed) onto a cot for a little while while I got some nice little ice bags put on me. Had a short chat with Desiree Ficker, who was very nice, regreouped and found Lara who was amused with my predicament of being in the med tent.
I decided to head over to the awards just in case I got anything. Turns out that the top three 40+ competitors getspecial Masters awards, and it just so happened that all of them were in my age group. So, I ended up getting a fourth place trophy in my age group. But the fun didn’t end there. There were two Kona (Ironman World Championship slots) in my age group, and they are offered in order of finish. If someone doesn’t want the slot, it goes to the next person, etc. Typically this is a formality as most people want to go to Kona for the chance to spend thousands of dollars in order to torture themselves for half a day. But not today. First person gets offered the slot (who happens to be “Coach” Troy Jacobson of Spinervals fame). He’s not there to get it. Second person – nope. Third person – nope. Now things are getting interesting as a Kona slot is getting closer to me. Fourth place – nope. Fifth place – nope. Six place – nope. “Gary David – Do you want a Kona slot?” Huh? That’s bizarre as they never go this deep. Given that I have neither the time nor the money to do an Ironman at the moment (let alone in Hawaii), I had to decline as well. I think it went down to 11th person in my AG.
On reflection, I was trying to figure out how to classify my race. It wasn’t a great race, but it was a pretty good race. A lot of stuff happened in the midst of it that I had to ignore or not worry about and just keep plugging along. And given the state of the world in all of its disrepair and disaster, spending 4+ hours “playing” outside is far from adversity. Keeping things in perspective, I was pretty fortunate for the day I had, and thanks to those who helped me achieve it.